The media here in recent days has been full of observations about the growing rift between Israel and the US, or, more accurately, between the Netanyahu and Obama administrations.
There have been, incredibly, some Israeli politicians and commentators centrist-left who point a finger at Netanyahu, saying that he is provoking Obama and that Israel-US tensions are his fault. They point out that we need America and cannot afford to alienate its chief executive.
Me? I say, Right on, Bibi! And I am hardly alone in this response.
Time to cut the umbilical cord with the US – which makes some afraid to alienate a source of “nurturing” – and to do what is best for Israel, unapologetically.
There are several points to be made with regard to the perceived need for Israel to behave in a conciliatory fashion towards the US.
- We can begin with the fact that some of these attitudes smack of a sort of diplomatic appeasement, a galut mentality that makes certain Jews think it is always important to do everything possible to keep “others” happy.
- If we were to continue to diminish ourselves to please others, we would end up…diminished. Weak. We would be serving ourselves and our own national interests and rights poorly. Because our own national interests and rights, and what others want of us frequently do not coincide.
- Where Obama is concerned, in any event, there is no way to make him “happy.” He and his flunkies are not with us, and it is foolish indeed to assume they are – that they can be “mollified.” I have reported over time on a whole series of actions that makes it clear he supports our enemies more than he does us – there is everything from his growing relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood supporter Qatar to his blocking of weaponry to be shipped to us during our recent war with Hamas. There are even the State Department press statements of the last few days that showed greater concern for the Palestinian Arab boy who was shot when about to throw a Molotov cocktail than for the baby killed by the terrorist who ran a car into her stroller.
- At the very same time, we must keep in mind that America is with us. That means the American people, the Congress and the Pentagon. Military people in the US tend to “get it.”
- We must respect ourselves enough to know our own value. It is not just that we “need” America, it is that America needs us. We sell ourselves short when we imagine otherwise. We are a bulwark of freedom in a part of the world that is over-run by tyranny and chaos. We provide valuable intelligence information, cutting edge research, a model for battling radical Islam, and a whole lot more.
I would say that at present there are two main sources to the tension.
The first has to do with an announcement from the government on Monday that development will be advanced for over 1,000 new apartments in two solidly Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem past the Green Line. There will be 660 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo and 400 in Har Homa.
Shock! Horrors! This destroys all chances for a “two-state solution,” right? It must be the case, if we choose to believe the response of the US government. Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman, for example, delivered this statement:
“If Israel wants to live in a peaceful society, they need to take steps that will reduce tensions. Moving forward with this sort of action would be incompatible with the pursuit of peace.” (Emphasis added)
“This sort of action” means providing homes for Jews in Jewish neighborhoods that are never going to be relinquished.
Please note, there has been no parallel statement from the State Department or the White House regarding recent blatant incitement by Mahmoud Abbas regarding the need for Muslims to block “settlers” from going on the Temple Mount. This, you see, is perfectly compatible with the pursuit of peace.
It was a ludicrous state of affairs. And Bibi Netanyahu was not backing down one iota. Speaking at the opening of the winter session of the Knesset, also on Monday, he said (emphasis added):
“…in defending Israel, there is no replacement for the soldiers of the IDF. This is a simple fact and it is joined by another fact: Over the past 20 years, since the rise of radical Islam, any territory we vacated was seized by these forces who attack us from the territories we left. Therefore, when faced with radical Islamist forces that repeatedly knock on our door from all sides, when faced with Abu Mazen’s [Abbas’s] incitement and his cooperation with Hamas, there is no alternative to taking a strong stand in our demands…
“…A peace agreement is possible when the following formula is present – a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state. To that end, the Palestinians must recognize our basic need for a nation-state of our own. They need to accept mutual recognition and genuine security…
“…What I just said is not popular in several world capitals, but we must stand up for the truth because peace cannot be built on a foundation of lies and illusion. The truth is that the root of this conflict was and remains the refusal to recognize a Jewish state in any borders…
“We are maintaining the status quo and allowing everyone access to the holy places, and we will continue to do so. There is broad consensus in the public that Israel has the full right to build in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem and the settlement blocs…
“The French build in Paris; the English build in London; the Israelis build in Jerusalem. To say to the Jews not to live in Jerusalem – Why? Because it will ignite the situation? For some people there is no convenient time to build houses for Jews in Jerusalem or in other part of our country, and if it were up to them we would not have built a single house over the past 65 years because it was never the right time.
”Let me tell you something: In the eyes of certain parties in the area, our existence is what is igniting the situation. So do we stop existing? For thousands of years, the Jews have been praying ‘Next year in Jerusalem.’ And you are telling us not to build? Not now? If not now, then when? And the answer will be ‘never.’ Well, we are building as we have built from the very establishment of the state and even before then – as we built Har Homa, as we build today, and we are building today as governments of Israel have built before and there should be broad consensus about this.
”There is one misconception that must be uprooted: Violence is not the result of building in Jerusalem. The cruel terror that struck at a three-month-old baby for whom her parents had waited for so long, a baby in her stroller on the way back from the Western Wall with her parents who wanted to pray and thank God that she was born – this terror is not the result of building in this or that section of Jerusalem. It is the result of our enemy’s desire that we not be here at all – nowhere, in no part of Jerusalem and not in Tel Aviv either, not in Haifa, not in Beer Sheba, nowhere.
“For this reason, since the birth of Zionism, building has been the natural and decisive answer to those who plot against our existence and want to uproot us from our land. They seek death while we build lives here. There must be a desire for peace on the Palestinian side as well. Unfortunately, at this time I do not see this desire and I also do not see any pressure on the Palestinian side. On the contrary. I only see pressure on Israel to make more and more concessions without receiving anything in return and without any assurances. Let me be clear: No pressure from without or from within will do any good…”
I will resist the impulse to quibble. I will not focus on the fact that I wish he would stop talking about a Palestinian state – for says he knows it’s not possible now. And I will not belabor my fervent desire for him to speak about our rights in the land, and not just about our security. Hopefully the time for this will come.
What I will do is say BRAVO! Because he didn’t back down and told it true.
“And you are telling us not to build? Not now? If not now, then when? And the answer will be ‘never.’…I only see pressure on Israel to make more and more concessions without receiving anything in return and without any assurances. Let me be clear: No pressure from without or from within will do any good…”
Our prime minister’s strong answer to Obama.
Then there is another issue of dissension between Netanyahu and Obama: Iran.
Netanyahu has been making his position very clear:
“Beating ISIS and leaving Iran as a threshold state is winning the battle and losing the war. I hope that the international community will not make a historic mistake by easing the sanctions imposed on Iran and leaving it with the ability to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb in a short period of time.”
But this is exactly the approach that Obama is taking. He seems determined to strike a deal with Iran, even at great risk to the world because he would leave Iran as a threshold nuclear state. Netanyahu is the most prominent, if not the sole, voice casting aspersions on the coming deal.
See this, from Israel Hayom today (emphasis added):
“The U.S. and Iran have ‘moved into an effective state of detente over the past year,’ The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
“The report, citing senior U.S. and Arab officials, said: ‘Recent months have ushered in a change as the two countries have grown into alignment on a spectrum of causes, chief among them promoting peaceful political transitions in Baghdad and Kabul and pursuing military operations against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria.’
“The report noted that the change ‘could drastically alter the balance of power in the region, and risks alienating key U.S. allies,’ such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Israel.
“According to the report, the Obama administration has also ‘markedly softened its confrontational stance toward Iran’s most important non-state allies’ — the Hamas and Hezbollah terrorist groups…”
This, my friends, is the stuff of nightmares and trumps all other concerns.
Netanyahu has spoken out forcefully on this issue. It remains to be seen whether he will take the appropriate action (presumably after the US and Iran are done dealing).
Now, with the publication of an article in the Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg – who frequently presents positions of the Obama administration – matters have fallen to a new low, unexpected even in terms of what has transpired until now.
According to the Goldberg article, the Obama administration has a “red-hot anger” at Netanyahu for his construction policies in Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem. The administration believes these policies “fatally undermined Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace process.”
If true, this is astonishing in what it reveals about the failure of the Obama administration to grasp what is going on here.
Goldberg cites a “senior US official,” who said, “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit.”
Officials here in Israel are now demanding an apology.
Said Minister Naftali Bennett (emphasis added):
“Israel is stronger than all of its defamers. The prime minister of Israel is not a private person. He is the leader of the Jewish state and the entire Jewish people. Cursing the prime minister and calling him names is an insult not just to him but to the millions of Israeli citizens and Jews across the globe.
“The leader of Syria who slaughtered 150,000 people was not awarded the name ‘chickenshit.’ Neither was the leader of Saudi Arabia who stones women and homosexuals or the leader of Iran who murders freedom protesters.
“If what appears in the press is true, then it seems that the current U.S. administration is throwing Israel under the bus.
“Israel is the only democratic state in the Middle East and has been fighting 66 years to survive. Israel is at the forefront of the free world’s fight against the Islamic terror of ISIS, Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran. Instead of attacking Israel and putting it at risk, the world should be strengthening and supporting it.”
Netanyahu’s response: “I am attacked just because I defend the State of Israel…” From his office came the statement:
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will continue to stand for the security interests of the citizens of Israel and the historic rights of the Jewish people in Jerusalem, and no pressure will change that.”
I end for today with this observation from a highly reliable source: A close contact of mine was present at a meeting with the prime minister today, and shared with me his surprise at how cool the prime minster’s demeanor was, how devoid of inner tensions, in the face of the Goldberg article. It is as if, concluded this source, Netanyahu has now made his peace with the reality of who Obama is, and is prepared to respond accordingly.
Time will tell. Midterm elections will be held next week, and we can only expect worse from the president thereafter.
You might like to contact Prime Minister Netanyahu with words of support. Please! no long messages and no preaching or history lessons. Tell him simply that you support his strong stance and are with him.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org